The multi-million selling franchise, Farming Simulator, has finally arrived on consoles and it’s a strangely addictive and therapeutic experience.
I still have to pinch myself every time I think about it. Farming Simulator has arrived on consoles. I never thought I would see this day. Giants Software have teamed up with Focus Home Interactive, who will be on publishing duty to bring the plough-’em-up to the PS3 and Xbox 360 on the 5th of September (today!).
For those new to the series, Farming Simulator is a simulator all about…(you guessed it) farming. Just like the real life farming industry, the game is a strange mixture of complexity and utter simplicity. There is no “end-game” to Farming Simulator and the aim is to make money by selling your produce to re-invest in your farm. There is nothing forcing you to play the game in a certain way or to take a particular path and apart from an occasional special request (which you can choose to accept or reject) you are free to play how you feel fit. Farming Simulator is a true simulation game.
You start the game with a humble farm with a few tractors, a harvester, a little cash in the bank and a few fields to work. From here you need to plough, sow, cultivate, spray and harvest your crops, then sell these crops to earn some additional cash. This might seem simple, and in essence it is, but its monotonous and frustrating at times. Driving up and down fields in straight lines is boring and I can imagine many real world farmers have fallen asleep at the wheel of their tractor due to the total blandness of it all – luckily, Farming Simulator allows you to hire a few helping hands to do the necessary but boring jobs for you. These employees cost money for the work they do, but they do take the extremely boring parts of the game and make them obsolete.
Also just like real world farming, Farming Simulator has a lot of equipment and hardware that must be used and this requires some complicated controls. Giants Software have done a decent job of optimizing the control scheme so that the huge amount of interactions that can be completed are never too far away. On the PS3 version, the left and right sticks are used for looking and movement, the face buttons are used for direct interactions and using a combination of the left shoulder buttons and the face buttons allows for in-vehicle actions to be performed (like raising and switching on equipment attached to a tractor). It’s still complicated but Farming Simulator has done a better job of porting across a complex set of keyboard commands to a controller than most who have tried it.
The worst aspect of Farming Simulator is probably one of its strongest assets – the fact that it gives you little to no directions. There is a set of 11 very helpful tutorials which teach you how to use the various tools in the game, and when starting a new game you can accept a short hand-holding session where the game guides you to the various locations on the map and what you can do there, but the one thing that Farming Simulator does not explain is probably the most important – how to run a farm. It can be completely overwhelming at first, even to the level that cultivating a field is more daunting than getting out numbered in your favorite shooter. It’s a journey of discovery to figure out how best to grow your crops and make the most money and it is totally daunting to be completely left to your own devices with nobody guiding you. Eventually, you can get into a rut and everything becomes familiar but it’s never easy.
Once you move past the occasionally ugly and distracting graphics, monotonous game play aspects and irritating sound track, the game is strangely addictive and relaxing. After taking my 5th consecutive drive to the silos to sell my corn, which was miles away from my farm, I said to myself “I’m bored, I’m switching this off”. 4 hours later and it was now 2AM and I was still playing Farming Simulator. It’s almost zen-like in its approach to gaming and is very therapeutic.
The console version of Farming Simulator is the definitive version of Farming Simulator 2013. All of the PC games features are there, intact, but there are now some additional tractors and a beautiful looking American backdrop to accompany the existing European farm.
It can be boring, repetitive and irritating but Farming Simulator is an oddity on consoles as it’s a quirky true simulation and a real alternative to the existing games out there. I am honestly surprised by how much I enjoyed playing it and once I had overcome the relative enormity and complexity of it all, it became an invigorating experience and not just tractor porn. It’s not perfect, and it won’t suit everybody, but if you have any interest in the game at all, I recommend that you give it a try.